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APRIL 24th, 2004
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The Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) could press charges by today (Thursday) against a group of Venezuelans allegedly caught illegally within the island's territorial waters on Saturday night.

Media Consultant Troy Garvey told GRENADA TODAY on Wednesday that the men from the oil-rich South American republic could face charges within the next few hours.

However, Garvey could not give specific details of the charges and whether or not the police had acted illegally by holding the suspects for more than 48 hours without charge. "I will have to look into it and get back to you", Garvey told this newspaper.

During the operation, three of the eleven Venezuelans who were taken into custody were shot by members of the Coast Guard. The police are working on the theory that the suspects were involved in illegal drug trafficking.

This newspaper was told that the Venezuelans were taken into custody after their 360 HP "Go-Fast" pirogue, was intercepted in territorial waters approximately 10 miles south-west of Point a party of officers engaged in night patrol.

Commander of the Coast Guard division, Assistant Superintendent Osmond Griffith told reporters during a press briefing on Monday, that his men had observed the vessel proceeding in a North-Easterly direction towards Grenada.

The pirogue was moving at close to 30 knots when the police allegedly attempted to stop the boat using Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's). ASP Griffith said the Coast Guard instructed the occupants to stop the boat but this was ignored when they attempted to evade the patrol boat by accelerating the speed on the pirogue.

He pointed out that the Coast Guard gave chase and the suspects were seen dumping a number of packages into the water. The police say they suspect the packages to contain illegal drugs. The senior police officer also reported that the Venezuelans attempted to ram and sink the Coast Guard.

Commander Griffith said that the officers on duty were forced to fire at the engines of the pirogue and in the process disabled one of them. The senior police officer disclosed that three of the suspects were shot in the operation and later taken to the General Hospital in St. George's for medical attention.

One of the suspects was shot in the leg, another in the back and the other in the area of the shoulder. ASP Griffith said that no illegal drugs or fishing equipment were found during the operation, except a number of containers containing approximately 300 gallons of fuel.

Coast Guard officials searched the seas where the packages were allegedly dumped but found nothing. When asked if the police had notified the office of the Venezuelan Embassy in Grenada about the incident, ASP Griffith said that this was being handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He declined to give further information on the grounds that counter narcotics operation procedures are very sensitive and could compromise their investigations. Meanwhile, GRENADA TODAY understand that the arrested men have requested the services of local attorney-at-law, Derek Sylvester who is attached Ciboney Chambers law firm in St. George's to look after their interest.

When contacted, Sylvester said he was advised by police investigators that charges are still to be laid against any of his clients. The lawyer confirmed that one of the suspects was released from hospital but still in police custody while the other two were still held at the institution nursing their injuries.

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